The Jewish Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah, is celebrated annually from December 24th to January 1st. Beginning on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights. Depending on the secular calendar, this could be anytime from the end of November to the beginning of December.
On each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, families gather to pray and light candles on a menorah, an eight-branched candelabra. During the Hanukkah celebration, most households also eat traditional foods, sing songs, play games, and exchange gifts, such as gelt (chocolate coins).
History Of Hanukkah
The historical events that are depicted in the Hanukkah story are said to have taken place in Jerusalem in the year 165 BCE. Jewish priest Mattathias and his sons rose out in rebellion after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the hands of Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV and the Greco-Syrian army under his command.
After taking back Jerusalem and the Temple, they lit the holy lamp known as the menorah, but they only had enough oil for one night’s worth of burning. The lamp miraculously maintained its light for the next week, during which time sufficient quantities of holy oil were gathered.
When compared to the Jewish high festivals of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as well as Purim and Passover, Hanukkah is considered to be a less significant event. Because of its proximity to Christmas and the desire among more secular Jews to participate in the cultural build-up to the winter solstice, it became a more significant holiday in the western world; as a result, gift-giving (in addition to the traditional gift of Hanukkah gelt) is more popular in the west than in other parts of the world.
Although the customs associated with Hanukkah are fairly consistent across the globe, each nation adds its own special spin to the holiday. In some regions of France, for instance, families celebrate Hanukkah by lighting a double-decker menorah with sixteen candles, while in Morocco, fried sweets are prepared with fruit juice and orange zest.
How Hanukkah Is Observed
The lighting of the menorah each evening serves as the centrepiece of the celebration. The menorah has nine flames, of which one is the shamash, also known as the “attendant,” which is responsible for lighting the other eight candles. On the very first night, we will just kindle a single fire. The following evening, a further flame is ignited in the fire. By the end of the eighth night of Chanukah, each of the eight candles has been lit.
On Friday afternoon, care should be made to light the menorah before the Shabbat candles are ignited, and the Shabbat candles should not be lit again until Saturday evening, after the conclusion of Shabbat.
Before lighting the menorah, special blessings are recited, which are frequently set to a traditional melody. After the menorah has been lit, traditional songs are sung.
Every home should have a menorah, and each member of the household should take turns lighting it and displaying it in a doorway, window, or other prominent location. Additionally, the menorah is illuminated in synagogues and other public locations all across the world. In recent years, thousands of enormous menorahs have begun to appear all over the world in front of municipal halls and legislative buildings, as well as in shopping malls and parks.
In order to praise and thank God for “delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, and the wicked into the hands of the righteous,” we recite the special Hallel prayer every day and also add the verse V’Al HaNissim to our daily prayers as well as the Grace After Meals.
Special Food For Hanukkah
Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday.
- Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil and then served with applesauce.
- Sufganiyot (singular: sufganiyah) are jelly-filled donuts that are fried and sometimes dusted with confectioners’ sugar before eating.
- Blintzes are thin pancakes wrapped around a sweet cheese filling and fried.
- Kugel is a sweet or savory casserole made with either potatoes or noodles.
- Other traditional foods include brisket (a particular cut of beef), tsimmis (a sweet vegetable stew), challah (braided egg bread), and gefilte fish (minced whitefish shaped into an oval).
The Dreidel Game
A dreidel is a four-sided top with one Hebrew letter written on each side.
- נ (Nun)
- ג (Gimmel)
- ה (Hay)
- ש (Shin)
Together, the letters stand for the Hebrew phrase “Nes Gadol Haya Sham.” This phrase means “A great miracle happened there [in Israel].”
To play the game, players place bets with foil-covered coins called Hanukkah gelt and spin the dreidel. Depending on how the dreidel lands, players receive or give back all or some of their gelt.
Its Implications For You
The previous Rebbe used to say, “We must listen carefully to what the candles are saying” while discussing the importance of spending time in close proximity to the Chanukah lights. What, then, do the smouldering embers suggest? A few notes have been sent:
- If you believe in anything, you should never be hesitant to defend it. Even though Judah Maccabee and his followers were up against insurmountable odds, they persisted. They went into the fight of their life praying and believing, and they came out on top. Yes, we can replicate that success.
- Grow ever more righteous and Torah-obeying. Though one spark was sufficient the day before, two or more are required now.
- It’s remarkable how far a tiny amount of illumination can travel. When night falls, people light their Chanukah candles. Their position in the entryway makes them a beacon in the growing night. The darkness itself can be transformed into light by a candle of God’s goodness, regardless of how dark it is outside.
- Bring it out into the open. Unlike any other Jewish holiday, the major obligation of Chanukah is to be performed in front of an audience. Being a Jew in name or even practise alone is not enough. The message of Chanukah is to spread the divine light of doing good deeds into the world.
- Though it may make you feel odd, you should not hide your desire to do good deeds (mitzvahs). Be instead like a menorah, which stands out from the crowd by blatantly displaying its distinctive light.
On the evening of Kislev 25, the eight-day festival of Chanukah begins. It usually falls in the month of December on the Gregorian calendar. The eight-day festival of Chanukah will take place from December 18, 2022, until December 26, 2022.
The Jewish “Festival of Lights” lasts eight days and is celebrated with special prayers, fried delicacies, and the lighting of a menorah each night.